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FIRST SIGNS OF WORRY FOR PARLIER

by Philippe Jeantot on 19 Dec 2000
Yesterday evening, Yves Parlier¹s boat speed on Aquitaine Innovations took a real dive. At 1800 hrs (French time) he was travelling at 15 knots,
heading 112 in 25 knot WSW winds. At 1900 hrs his speed tumbled to 6.8 knots, on a heading of 95. At 2000hrs his heading was 50 (wind from behind)
and speed just 1.55 knots. This is a similar pattern of events to that of a boat with no sails up, and with no fixed direction (taking into account the force
and direction of the wind not changing).

At 0100hrs the heading then changed to 69, the speed rose to 4.9 knots. This remained steady all night and even increased to reach 6.6 knots, heading
at 101 by 12 o¹clock. Neither the Race HQ nor the Aquitaine Communications team has been unable to contact Yves Parlier by telephone or through
the Standard C. After his fantastic performances in the last few days, we are all now holding our breath. He was reaching 2 knots more in speed than
the rest of the Vendée Globe fleet, and current leader Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) remarked that he would certainly not have pushed his boat as hard as
Yves. 'In the Southern Ocean, the aim of the game is to get through, not to play hard.'

It¹s still too early to say what¹s happened. Evidently the boat is not sailing at normal speeds taking into account the localised weather conditions. The
different headings and varying speeds suggest that Yves is still in control of the boat, even though it is clear that he is constrained to travel at a
normal pace.

Taking into account the inability to make contact, I have asked Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) and Dominique Wavre (UBP) to sail to his position.
There is no obvious demand for assistance on Yves¹ part, but these measures are preventative and will not penalise these two skippers practically as
they are just behind on his route. They will just need to alter their heading by a few degrees to reach their fellow competitor¹s position.

The top group is under the influence of a depression situated at 52° South & 115° East. As we noted yesterday that the concertina effect would invert
itself, sure enough Michel Desjoyeaux & Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) have both been in a 25 ­ 45 knot Westerly breeze. On the radio,
they both admitted to finding it hard to set the right sail configuration as Michel described it: 'In the squalls of 40 knots, you¹re over-canvassed and
when it drops back to 25 knots you¹re under. As you tend to get several gusts passing each hour, you¹ve no time to keep adapting the sail area.'

On the other hand, the pack behind these two are finding the screaming 50¹s rather a quiet place to be. Ellen MacArthur and Dominique Wavre are
taking time to get on with some sewing, and if anyone thinks women are better at this job then Ellen¹s comment will change your mind: 'Stuck the
needle through my fingers a few too many times as the sail flapped back and forth. It has blood stains from my fingers on it to prove how hard it was!'
Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) is biding his time before the strong NW winds arrive by 'concentrating on checking the boat and racking up some extra
sleep. I¹ll be the first to get these winds and the trick is to position yourself on the right latitude to get the right wind angle.'

In fact behind them Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) is back up to 14 ­ 15 knots average speed, clearly getting into the good following winds and determined to
close the gap on his nearest rival, Hall. Javier Sanso (Old Spice) faxed us to report in that he had been in 60 knot winds and big seas. 'I had to sail
under staysail only. The only problem is that a wave managed to drench the inside of the cabin and now my lovely dry sleeping bag is all wet!'

For Mike Golding (Team Group 4), this eagerly awaited depression isn¹t good news. He was hoping to find the lee of Marion Island calm enough to
climb the mast. Although not greatly handicapped by his rigging problem, he is heading now for either Crozet or the Kerguelen Islands for a respite in
the conditions. Fedor Konyoukhov (Modern University for the Humanities) faxed in to report that he has finally escaped the St. Helen high pressure
and has found 25 knot NW winds. He has no voice comms working right now as the Standard B handset is not functioning.

The Southern Ocean continues to dole out good and bad cards to the Vendée Globe fleet with a will of it¹s ownŠ

Radio Chat Extracts

Telex from Javier Sanso (Old Spice) : 'I guess the low¹s a little bit faster than expected. Tonight I have winds steady 55 gusting to 70 knots. I thought
the anemometer was broken but the next gust was 60 and that definitely scared the hell out of me. I put on my weather gear quick to take the mainsail
down. The temperature dropped to 9 degrees and the moon came out behind the clouds, it looked like a Wagner Opera!'

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines LaPotagère) : 'I have to pinch myself to believe that I'm in the roaring 40's because it's too much like fun! There are some
priceless waves here. It's hard to set the right sail as the weather's a bit squally right now. Until last night I had my staysail up with three reefs in the
main. I was under canvassed but it was better like this with the sea-state. You go from 20 - 40 knots in the gusts.'

Michel Desjoyaux (PRB) : 'I was just asking myself what's up with our friend on Aquitaine Innovations! 4.6 knots in this weather is a little
strange...The rain squalls are sometimes quite harsh, they vary between 30 and 50 plus knots. As several pass in one hour, you can't adapt your sails
the whole time. Seeing the rhythm that Yves has tried to maintain, I wouldn't really want to follow the same pace. Even if I could go faster, it's clear
that I haven't tried to follow his rhythm. If nobody is pushing too hard now, we'll have a good fight later on. The aim of the game is to get through this
part, not to play too hard!'

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'I wasn't so watchful last night and made a slightly worse route than my nearest rivals. I am trying to pass the way
point at 85E 50S and I went straight above it...so I'm coming down a little. I must find a corridor of some sorts. I'm reassured that those ahead aren't so
far away, so they haven't escaped yet. But they are half a weather system ahead of me.'

Dominique Wavre (UBP): 'It's quite tranquil, the barometer is at 1022, I'm in high pressure. All the sails are up but it's so quiet! An anticyclone came
and plonked itself on my route. So I've spent 4 hours working on some grand sewing jobs! Trying to take my mind of how fast my dear friends are
going. Apart from the cold, it doesn't seem quite like the screaming 50's here!'

Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) : 'Today things are going much better! I'm travelling at 14-15 knots on average on a smooth sea with the genoa and a reef in
the main sail. It's really cold as my generator is in the sail hold. I can turn the motor on in the cabin if it gets really cold. I'd like to come back on Josh
Hall. We'll see, it's a question of patience and endurance.'

Telex from Fedor Konyukhov (Modern University for the Humanities): 'I am alright, wind 25 knots from the NW, many albatross around me. Fedor'

Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) : 'After the Kerguelen Islands the wind fell to 5 - 10 knots, which is no good to me, but the others are getting this too. The
North Westerlies will kick in this afternoon and I'll be the first to get them. I¹ve had a good shower and shaved in the meantime. The only problem on
the boat has been the rope for the second reef, which broke, but I'll just replace it. It's calm today so I'll concentrate on checking the boat and rack up
some extra sleep before the strong NW winds arrive.'

Latest Ranking* polled at 0800hrs (UT):

Psn Boat Skipper Lat Long Headg Av. Speed** DTF*** Miles from leader

1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 48°09'S 97°26'E 96 17.2 13758 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagère

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